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Give the holiday gift of yourself

Practice meaningful ways to spread kindness, such as donating a meal, helping an elderly neighbor, or calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

The holidays are a joyous time for many individuals and families. They’re filled with festive gatherings, time off work, and are often a celebration.

This can sometimes make it difficult to remember that this is not a happy time for some, especially this year on the heels of a 3-year pandemic.

“The holidays are very different for everyone,” said Christina Y. Bilyeu, MD, chief of Mental Health Services for Kaiser Permanente North Valley. “For those who don’t have friends and family, those grappling with family or financial issues, or those who may have had a traumatic event happen around the holidays, this time can be very isolating.”

World Kindness Day on November 13 kicks off the season and can act as a reminder to be compassionate and mindful of others. Below are some ways to do just that.

Check in on people

Consumed with our own hectic lives, it’s easy to forget to inquire about the well-being of others.

“It’s important to check in on your friends, family, and colleagues to make sure they’re doing OK,” said Dr. Bilyeu. “A kind word can go far in our society. So, take an extra moment to say ‘Hi’ to someone, and be mindful that they may not be in a good place.”

Simply acknowledging a colleague, saying hello to people on the street, or asking how those around you are doing is a way to let others know they are not alone.

Be sensitive

For some people the holidays will never be the same after the pandemic.

“It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that people’s situations have changed a lot over the last few years,” Dr. Bilyeu said. “They may still be grieving the loss of someone close to them, or the loss of a job, a home, or financial stability.”

Also, for those living with a mental health condition, the stress of the holiday season can contribute to worsening symptoms.

Acknowledge that the holiday season can be difficult for some and let them know that it’s OK to not be OK. Offer them support and reassurance, listen to them, and if needed, offer mental health resources, such as 1-1 emotional support coaching through Ginger, or mindfulness digital tools, or help them schedule an appointment with a therapist.

“Practice meaningful ways to spread kindness, such as donating a meal, helping an elderly neighbor, or calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.”  — Christina Bilyeu, MD

Give the gift of yourself

We forget how powerful the gift of our time can be, said Dr. Bilyeu. It’s non-material things that people remember the most.

“Whether you’re volunteering or doing a favor for someone, anything you do that comes from a selfless place will boost your own morale and bring others joy,” she said.

Practice meaningful ways to spread kindness, such as donating a meal, helping an elderly neighbor, or calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Mend fences while setting boundaries

Everyone’s family dynamics are complicated. For many, the pandemic intensified their appreciation for quality time with loved ones. For others, it inspired them to mend fences with estranged people in their life, said Dr. Bilyeu.

“People treat the holidays differently post-pandemic,” she said. “They hold their loved ones a little tighter. There is a heightened sense that time is limited.”

She also said that while reuniting with those with whom we’ve been distant is positive, it’s also good to set healthy boundaries. That means doing what is best for yourself and avoiding conflict in conversation, while still extending an olive branch.

Give support. Give space.

For people who may feel depressed or isolated, offer support when you can. Remind them that they are not alone, but give them space if they need time to heal or grieve.


familiesholidaysmental health

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